RICHLAND COUNTY, SC (WIS) - The month of May marks National Foster Care Awareness Month with the goal of drawing attention to the need for foster parents across the United States and especially here in South Carolina.
As of May 1st, there are more than 4,500 children in foster care in the Palmetto State and it needs about 1,600 more homes for the children still in the system.
In the Midlands, South Carolina Department of Social Services says they need about 330 more foster families.
According to DSS, more than 50 percent of the children that come into care in Richland County have been placed in homes outside of the county.
When children are placed outside their home counties, besides the trauma of being separated from their parents, they are also being separated from other support systems like school, church, sports teams and everyone they know, DSS said.
"Foster parents will tell you being a foster parent is hard, but it is also the most rewarding thing they've ever done," Chrysti Shain, from the Department of Social Services, said. "You're saving children at their most vulnerable time and it takes a lot of love and a lot of patience."
For one Lexington family, that is exactly the case.
Tim and Jamie Rekers have two biological children of their own, Ethan and Eli.
When they tried for baby No. 3, the doctors told them the baby had Meckel-Gruber Syndrome, which is a rare genetic disorder that affects many parts of the body. The most common features are enlarged kidneys with numerous fluid-filled cysts. The family would lose this child and another newborn to the disorder, dying minutes after being born.
One in 100 people carry the recessive gene that causes the genetic disorder. Both Tim and Jamie carry the gene..
Jamie Rekers describes her families journey as "a lot of hard losses and goodbyes."
"We did not want to go down that road again and so we opted for adoption and adopted our youngest daughter," Jamie said.
That adoption took the form of Liza and the addition of little girl helped the family realize that they still had love to give. The Rekers decided to open their home as a foster home.
"We've invited two different children into our family since we started fostering and you know we don't know their background," Tim said. "We don't really know the situation they're coming from, but we just invite them into our family and try to love them like we love our own kids."
In Richland County, there are over 400 foster children in homes and still over 200 homes are needed. In Lexington, there are over 250 children in care with a need for about another 100 homes.
DSS hopes foster care awareness month will draw in more families to open their homes to these children.
For more information on how to register to foster children, check out the DSS website or call (888) 828-3555.